The Libation Bearers and Hamlet

1298 words 6 pages
The Libation Bearers and Hamlet
Many of Shakespeare’s plays draw from classical Greek themes, plot and metaphors. The tragedies of Sophocles, Aeschylus, Euripides and Homer have themes like royal murders, assassinations by near relatives, the supernatural, ghostly visits, and vengeful spirits of the dead- themes which reappear in Shakespeare’s tragedies with a difference.
Shakespeare’s tragic hero Hamlet and Aeschylus’s Orestes have a great deal in common. Both the plays are set in a time when the society is going through transition. In Orestia gods are changing. Furies turn into Eumenides or the Pacified Ones. Social and political norms are changing. The old laws of revenge and retribution have to be re-established. Similarly Hamlet’s
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However, he does not have to justify his action. He has a clear command from Apollo to revenge his father failing which he will have to suffer the wrath of gods and his father’s furies.
Orestes’ tragedy lies in what he does. At the end of The Libation Bearers he is tormented by his mother’s furies. Apparently there is no refuge for him. He is followed by “these torment... the hounds of mother's hate", his mother’s furies “like Gorgons, shrouded in black, their heads wreathed, swarming serpents"(Libation Bearers 1052-1054). On the other hand Hamlet’s tragedy lies in his inaction. If he was Orestes he would have killed Claudius sooner and saved the day. If Orestes was in Hamlet’s shoes he would have deferred matricide long enough for the gods to come to the conclusion to which they ultimately come.
Hamlet is rather like Electra in his excessive mourning and frustration. Both Hamlet and Electra in The Libation Bearers are depressed with a grief which, in the words of S.T Coleridge is A grief without a pang, void, dark, and drear, A stifled, drowsy, unimpassioned grief, Which finds no natural outlet, no relief (Dejection, An Ode)
Both are forced to live with their mothers and step fathers. Electra cannot voice her disgust for her mother and Aegisthius while Hamlet’s suppressed